In 2009, Bethany needed help filing her taxes. She was working full time and recovering from a divorce, and wanted to make every penny of her tax return count for her family. She knew that using a tax preparer service would cost her more money, and she needed those extra dollars to use towards her bills and savings.
Filing taxes can be an expensive burden for families who struggle to make ends meet. That's why we offer free income tax filings for Bartholomew County residents like Bethany who make $54,000 or less annually. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is one of many United Way programs that supports the financial stability and resilience of Bartholomew County residents. Through the VITA program, local people like Bethany can save more money each year on their tax returns.
Bethany filed her taxes for free through the VITA program for the first time in 2009, and is one of thousands who have saved money through the service. “It’s been a great experience, that’s why I keep coming back,” says Bethany. “I tell everybody about it. I work with a lot of different people, and I tell them because I think it’s a great service. I don’t know why more people don’t use it.”
Bethany greeting a VITA client at the United Way building in Columbus.
Bethany has returned to file her taxes through the VITA program every year since 2009, and decided last year that she’d like to give back to the service that’s helped her save money. In 2017, she volunteered to greet incoming VITA clients and help them prepare their personal information before their appointments. “I was really touched by the commitment of each preparer, each greeter and I thought ‘You know, I can’t necessarily as a single mother give back financially, but I can give back some of my time,’” says Bethany. Bethany enjoyed her time as a VITA volunteer, getting to know other volunteers and learned more about the program than she did as a participant. “I had no idea behind the scenes how many tax preparers it took to run this. It’s rather mind blowing, in a good way. I hope to be able to volunteer more next year,” Bethany says.
“It’s about helping others,” she says. “That’s the whole key, I think. That’s the whole bottom line. A lot of the people who come in to get these services may not know any other way to get their taxes done. I still wouldn’t be comfortable doing my own taxes by myself on my own computer. The benefit is being able to provide a service free of charge, accurate and reliable. Each year, I have always gotten a refund.”